Helping Employees Speak Up

Source: Larry Johnson, Government Finance Review, May 2019

…. The question for all managers is how to make sure their employees aren’t afraid to tell them what they need to know. There are three critical things a manager can do to encourage honest feedback from subordinates:

1. Make It Clear that You Want the Feedback.
Let people know — repeatedly — that you are not perfect and you expect them to help you make the best decisions possible, so any help they can offer will be appreciated, especially if they see you about to do something stupid.

2. Don’t Be Defensive.
When someone gives you this kind of feedback, control your defensiveness. None of us like to be criticized, and it’s easy to argue and even respond with hostility when a subordinate suggests there might be another, better, approach. You aren’t going to agree to something you know to be wrong — you just need to listen openly to the incoming information.

3. Thank the Employee — and Mean It.
Whether or not you take the advice the subordinate offers, be sure to thank her and express your appreciation for bringing the matter to your attention. Reinforced behavior tends to get repeated, so if you want people to give you more feedback, reward them for doing so…..